Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry call for ‘extraordinary’ Islington to ‘set an example’ in anti-racism rally
- Credit: Archant
Four hundred people descended on Highbury Fields yesterday morning as Islington MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry gave rapturously-received speeches against hate crime.
The “Love Islington” event was called just three days before, in response to a five-fold increase in hate crimes across the country since the EU referendum Leave vote - including incidents in Islington.
Mr Corbyn said: “Racism ends with people hating people. It ended with gas chambers in the 1930s. Islington needs to set an example and come together and combat racism and xenophobia in any form, and above all educate our children that racism has no place in society.”
The Labour leader, wearing a Ralph Lauren jacket, appeared relaxed after a tumultuous week in which 80 per cent of his own MPs called for him to go. But to huge cheers, he said: “I want us to have a different government, very obviously. One that opposes racism.”
Speaking of Ukip leader Nigel Farage’s controversial “breaking point” poster, used in the party’s EU Leave campaign, Mr Corbyn said: “The language used was truly atrocious. I never thought I’d see the day when a political figure stood proudly in front of a poster telling people [refugees] are a threat. What kind of humanity has left us that allows that to be a central part of propaganda?”
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He said people need to stand up if they witness a hate crime: “Don’t walk past, walk across the road and stand in solidarity with that person. It has to be universal responsibility.
“I ask you this. When you are in an operating theatre, the last thing you see before you fall asleep are those who are operating on you. They may be from Scotland, Jamaica, England and India. Does it really matter where they are from?
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“Our borough is a wonderful place and I am very proud to represent it in Parliament. I am very proud because people come together. That’s what brought us together this morning. In the ashes of the horror of the last seven days and rise in hate crime, let’s build something stronger.”
In another well-received speech, Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry had roared: “How did this happen to us?
“We have been lied to by a government which decided to hold a referendum with no plan B. Why? Because of internal party politics.”
She also rounded on the Labour MPs who attempted to force Mr Corbyn’s resignation last week: “They have resorted to squabbling, which I think is a disgrace. Now is the time for calm heads for how to get out of this mess.”
Mrs Thornberry also called on Islington’s “extraordinary community” to set an example to the world in combatting racism.
Other speakers included Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of Finsbury Park Mosque, which was victim of an attempted arson attack in November. Hillrise councillor Michelline Ngongo, who came to the UK as a refugee, spoke of her experiences where she suffered racism. And Rev Simon Harvey, of St Mary’s Church in Upper Street, “prayed for peace on Islington’s streets: from Archway to Essex Road to the Cally”. Highbury East councillor Caroline Russell also addressed the crowd.